Resilience & Mental Health
Is the definition of resilience affecting our mental health?
Recently there has been an even greater focus on mental health in the workplace and it seems that this will only keep growing due to the constant demands businesses are under (I promise I won’t mention Brexit!!). Times are changing and there is a lot of uncertainty around so everyone is feeling under more pressure.
Due to this we have also had a greater demand for our workplace mindfulness courses and resilience training. In some of this training we look at definitions of resilience and I share the standard Oxford dictionary definition of resilience- ‘The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.’ Now I share this not necessarily because I think it is a great definition but because I like to create a conversation around what it means to everyone. I personally feel that this definition could be putting people under pressure as it puts an expectation on us that we must bounce back straight away and show how tough we are by responding immediately and getting on with things. Now maybe there is a time for that for sure, we can’t just sit and wallow in everything that goes wrong for us but surely we don’t always have to bounce back quickly?
When I have mentioned this in my seminars I have had a few participants thank me for it as they have personally been under pressure and their mental health has been affected by this pressure, which has been heightened by the expectations they are feeling from those around them. Most likely as we are all told that we must be ‘tough’ and resilient and bounce back we expect others to do this when we see them in a moment of difficulty. Stress, grief, trauma on any level isn’t quite as simple as that and I feel that it is detrimental to the mental health of our culture to expect this from people.
How should we define resilience?
I have heard neuroscientist and meditation teacher, Rick Hanson define resilience as- ‘Walking even on uneven ground!’. I like this as it makes me think that resilience comes from the ability to be present with whatever life throws at us. That doesn’t mean we have to bounce back quickly but quite simply allow whatever emotions and feelings that arise from this to be present and we are not trying to show how tough we are by fighting them or trying to avoid them but simply recognise them and choose our response to these feelings and the situation itself.
My personal experience in working with groups and individuals for the last 15 years on resilience is that when we can be present with the situation and feel the emotions that come with it then this can prevent it coming back on us stronger or prevent negative behaviour patterns and chronic addictions. As humans we have the right to take our time to deal with our difficulties and shouldn’t be under the demand to constantly bounce back but if we equip ourselves with emotional awareness and tools for the mind then we can adapt in these times of difficulty and ‘Walk even on uneven ground!’
Hopefully the next time you face difficult times that you can remember this and that it is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength and compassion.
To your health,